April 10, 2005

Scientific Genius, and minor ammusement for a sunday afternoon

Thought this was Great. The wonderful names you get in particle physics are well known – is this a competition which the astronomers are just getting in on?

From the BBC:

European project to build an Extremely Large Telescope (ELT)

Which is comic enough, for me, anyway. But swiftly followed up by this:

Concepts for ELTs include the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) being considered by the US and Canada; and the Euro50 and Overwhelmingly Large Telescope (Owl)

I like the idea of sitting down and deciding that the concept you're going to be spending the next few months designing will be called the 'Overwhelmingly Large Telescope'.

There is however a question that I'd like to ask. The English language has many fine words, and 'Overwhelmed' is an excellent example. We also have the word 'Underwhelmed', though I've got an idea this is a more recent development. However, there seems to be a gap – "Whelmed" – why is it conspicuous by it's absence? What would it mean if it was not? Why has it either been lost from or never entered into common usage? Does anyone have any answers to these vital questions of etymology and, er, something else?

May the day come swiftly when common parlance will allow any journalist and critic to use the prhase 'A pleasantly whelming experience'. Let us unite.

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